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Athens

Capital city of Greece

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Athens

Greek: Αθήνα
Seal
Nicknames: 
Ιοστεφές άστυ (the violet-crowned city)
Το κλεινόν άστυ (the glorious city)
Athens
Location within Greece
Athens
Location within Europe
Athens
Athens (Europe)
Coordinates: 37°59′02.3″N 23°43′40.1″E / 37.983972°N 23.727806°E / 37.983972; 23.727806Coordinates: 37°59′02.3″N 23°43′40.1″E / 37.983972°N 23.727806°E / 37.983972; 23.727806
Country  Greece
Geographic regionCentral Greece
Administrative regionAttica
Regional unitCentral Athens
Districts7
Government
 • TypeMayor–council government
 • MayorKostas Bakoyannis (New Democracy)
Area
 • Municipality38.964 km2 (15.044 sq mi)
 • Urban
412 km2 (159 sq mi)
 • Metro
2,928.717 km2 (1,130.784 sq mi)
Highest elevation
338 m (1,109 ft)
Lowest elevation
70.1 m (230.0 ft)
Population
 (2012)[2]
 • Municipality664,046
 • Rank1st urban, 1st metro in Greece
 • Urban
3,090,508
 • Urban density7,500/km2 (19,000/sq mi)
 • Metro
3,753,783[1]
Demonym(s)Athenian
GDP PPP (2016)
 • TotalUS$ 102,446 billion
 • Per capitaUS$ 32,461
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+3 (EEST)
Postal codes
10x xx, 11x xx, 120 xx
Telephone21
Vehicle registrationYxx, Zxx, Ixx
Patron saintDionysius the Areopagite (3 October)
Websitewww.cityofathens.gr

Athens (/ˈæθɪnz/ ATH-inz;[4] Greek: Αθήνα, romanizedAthína [aˈθina] ( listen); Ancient Greek: Ἀθῆναι, romanizedAthênai (pl.) [atʰɛ̂ːnai̯]) is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence started somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.[5]

Classical Athens was a powerful city-state. A center for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum,[6][7] it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy,[8][9] largely because of its cultural and political impact on the European continent, and in particular the Romans.[10] In modern times, Athens is a large cosmopolitan metropolis and central to economic, financial, industrial, maritime, political and cultural life in Greece.

Athens is a Beta global city according to the Globalization and World Cities Research Network,[11] and is one of the biggest economic centers in southeastern Europe. It has a large financial sector, and its port Piraeus is both the largest passenger port in Europe,[12][13] and the second largest in the world.[14]

The Municipality of Athens (also City of Athens), which actually constitutes a small administrative unit of the entire city, had a population of 664,046 (in 2011)[2] within its official limits, and a land area of 38.96 km2 (15.04 sq mi).[15][16] The Athens Urban Area (Greater Athens and Greater Piraeus) extends beyond its administrative municipal city limits, with a population of 3,090,508 (in 2011)[17] over an area of 412 km2 (159 sq mi).[16] According to Eurostat[18] in 2011, the functional urban area (FUA) of Athens was the 9th most populous FUA in the European Union (the 6th most populous capital city of the EU), with a population of 3.8 million people. Athens is also the southernmost capital on the European mainland and the warmest major city in Europe.

The heritage of the classical era is still evident in the city, represented by ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. The city also retains Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of Ottoman monuments, while its historical urban core features elements of continuity through its millennia of history.[19] Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery. Landmarks of the modern era, dating back to the establishment of Athens as the capital of the independent Greek state in 1834, include the Hellenic Parliament and the so-called "architectural trilogy of Athens", consisting of the National Library of Greece, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Academy of Athens. Athens is also home to several museums and cultural institutions, such as the National Archeological Museum, featuring the world's largest collection of ancient Greek antiquities, the Acropolis Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Benaki Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum. Athens was the host city of the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896, and 108 years later it hosted the 2004 Summer Olympics, making it one of the few cities to have hosted the Olympics more than once.[20]

Athens Intro articles: 45

Etymology and names

In Ancient Greek, the name of the city was Ἀθῆναι (Athênai, pronounced [atʰɛ̂ːnai̯] in Classical Attic) a plural. In earlier Greek, such as Homeric Greek, the name had been current in the singular form though, as Ἀθήνη (Athḗnē).[21] It was possibly rendered in the plural later on, like those of Θῆβαι (Thêbai) and Μυκῆναι (Μukênai). The root of the word is probably not of Greek or Indo-European origin,[22] and is possibly a remnant of the Pre-Greek substrate of Attica.[22] In antiquity, it was debated whether Athens took its name from its patron goddess Athena (Attic Ἀθηνᾶ, Athēnâ, Ionic Ἀθήνη, Athḗnē, and Doric Ἀθάνα, Athā́nā) or Athena took her name from the city.[23] Modern scholars now generally agree that the goddess takes her name from the city,[23] because the ending -ene is common in names of locations, but rare for personal names.[23]

According to the ancient Athenian founding myth, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, competed against Poseidon, the God of the Seas, for patronage of the yet-unnamed city;[24] they agreed that whoever gave the Athenians the better gift would become their patron[24] and appointed Cecrops, the king of Athens, as the judge.[24] According to the account given by Pseudo-Apollodorus, Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and a salt water spring welled up.[24] In an alternative version of the myth from Vergil's Georgics, Poseidon instead gave the Athenians the first horse.[24] In both versions, Athena offered the Athenians the first domesticated olive tree.[24][25] Cecrops accepted this gift[24] and declared Athena the patron goddess of Athens.[24][25] Eight different etymologies, now commonly rejected, were proposed during the 17th century. Christian Lobeck proposed as the root of the name the word ἄθος (áthos) or ἄνθος (ánthos) meaning "flower", to denote Athens as the "flowering city". Ludwig von Döderlein proposed the stem of the verb θάω, stem θη- (tháō, thē-, "to suck") to denote Athens as having fertile soil.[26] Athenians were called cicada-wearers (Ancient Greek: Τεττιγοφόροι) because they used to wear pins of golden cicadas. A symbol of being autochthon (earth-born), because the legendary founder of Athens, Erechtheus was an autochthon or of being musicians, because the cicada is a "musician" insect.[27] In classical literature, the city was sometimes referred to as the City of the Violet Crown, first documented in Pindar's ἰοστέφανοι Ἀθᾶναι (iostéphanoi Athânai), or as τὸ κλεινὸν ἄστυ (tò kleinòn ásty, "the glorious city").

During the medieval period, the name of the city was rendered once again in the singular as Ἀθήνα. Variant names included Setines, Satine, and Astines, all derivations involving false splitting of prepositional phrases.[28] King Alphonse X of Castile gives the pseudo-etymology 'the one without death/ignorance'.[29] In Ottoman Turkish, it was called آتينا Ātīnā,[30] and in modern Turkish, it is Atina.

After the establishment of the modern Greek state, and partly due to the conservatism of the written language, Ἀθῆναι [aˈθine] again became the official name of the city and remained so until the abandonment of Katharevousa in the 1970s, when Ἀθήνα, Athína, became the official name. Today it is often simply called η πρωτεύουσα ī protévousa 'the capital'.

Athens Etymology and names articles: 26

History

The oldest known human presence in Athens is the Cave of Schist, which has been dated to between the 11th and 7th millennia BC.[5] Athens has been continuously inhabited for at least 5,000 years.[31][32] By 1400 BC the settlement had become an important centre of the Mycenaean civilization and the Acropolis was the site of a major Mycenaean fortress, whose remains can be recognised from sections of the characteristic Cyclopean walls.[33] Unlike other Mycenaean centers, such as Mycenae and Pylos, it is not known whether Athens suffered destruction in about 1200 BC, an event often attributed to a Dorian invasion, and the Athenians always maintained that they were pure Ionians with no Dorian element. However, Athens, like many other Bronze Age settlements, went into economic decline for around 150 years afterwards.

Iron Age burials, in the Kerameikos and other locations, are often richly provided for and demonstrate that from 900 BC onwards Athens was one of the leading centres of trade and prosperity in the region.[34] The leading position of Athens may well have resulted from its central location in the Greek world, its secure stronghold on the Acropolis and its access to the sea, which gave it a natural advantage over inland rivals such as Thebes and Sparta.

Delian League, under the leadership of Athens before the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC

By the 6th century BC, widespread social unrest led to the reforms of Solon. These would pave the way for the eventual introduction of democracy by Cleisthenes in 508 BC. Athens had by this time become a significant naval power with a large fleet, and helped the rebellion of the Ionian cities against Persian rule. In the ensuing Greco-Persian Wars Athens, together with Sparta, led the coalition of Greek states that would eventually repel the Persians, defeating them decisively at Marathon in 490 BC, and crucially at Salamis in 480 BC. However, this did not prevent Athens from being captured and sacked twice by the Persians within one year, after a heroic but ultimately failed resistance at Thermopylae by Spartans and other Greeks led by King Leonidas,[35] after both Boeotia and Attica fell to the Persians.

The decades that followed became known as the Golden Age of Athenian democracy, during which time Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece, with its cultural achievements laying the foundations for Western civilization. The playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides flourished in Athens during this time, as did the historians Herodotus and Thucydides, the physician Hippocrates, and the philosopher Socrates. Guided by Pericles, who promoted the arts and fostered democracy, Athens embarked on an ambitious building program that saw the construction of the Acropolis of Athens (including the Parthenon), as well as empire-building via the Delian League. Originally intended as an association of Greek city-states to continue the fight against the Persians, the league soon turned into a vehicle for Athens's own imperial ambitions. The resulting tensions brought about the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), in which Athens was defeated by its rival Sparta.

By the mid-4th century BC, the northern Greek kingdom of Macedon was becoming dominant in Athenian affairs. In 338 BC the armies of Philip II defeated an alliance of some of the Greek city-states including Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea, effectively ending Athenian independence. Later, under Rome, Athens was given the status of a free city because of its widely admired schools. The Roman emperor Hadrian, in the 2nd century AD, ordered the construction of a library, a gymnasium, an aqueduct which is still in use, several temples and sanctuaries, a bridge and financed the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

By the end of Late Antiquity, Athens had shrunk due to sacks by the Herulians, Visigoths, and Early Slavs which caused massive destruction in the city. In this era, the first Christian churches were built in Athens, and the Parthenon and other temples were converted into churches. Athens expanded its settlement in the second half of the Middle Byzantine Period, in the 9th to 10th centuries AD, and was relatively prosperous during the Crusades, benefiting from Italian trade. After the Fourth Crusade the Duchy of Athens was established. In 1458 it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and entered a long period of decline.

Following the Greek War of Independence and the establishment of the Greek Kingdom, Athens was chosen as the capital of the newly independent Greek state in 1834, largely because of historical and sentimental reasons. At the time, it was reduced to a town of about 4,000 people in a loose swarm of houses along the foot of the Acropolis. The first King of Greece, Otto of Bavaria, commissioned the architects Stamatios Kleanthis and Eduard Schaubert to design a modern city plan fit for the capital of a state.

The first modern city plan consisted of a triangle defined by the Acropolis, the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos and the new palace of the Bavarian king (now housing the Greek Parliament), so as to highlight the continuity between modern and ancient Athens. Neoclassicism, the international style of this epoch, was the architectural style through which Bavarian, French and Greek architects such as Hansen, Klenze, Boulanger or Kaftantzoglou designed the first important public buildings of the new capital. In 1896, Athens hosted the first modern Olympic Games. During the 1920s a number of Greek refugees, expelled from Asia Minor after the Greco-Turkish War, swelled Athens's population; nevertheless it was most particularly following World War II, and from the 1950s and 1960s, that the population of the city exploded, and Athens experienced a gradual expansion.

In the 1980s it became evident that smog from factories and an ever-increasing fleet of automobiles, as well as a lack of adequate free space due to congestion, had evolved into the city's most important challenge. A series of anti-pollution measures taken by the city's authorities in the 1990s, combined with a substantial improvement of the city's infrastructure (including the Attiki Odos motorway, the expansion of the Athens Metro, and the new Athens International Airport), considerably alleviated pollution and transformed Athens into a much more functional city. In 2004 Athens hosted the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Athens History articles: 72

Geography

Athens sprawls across the central plain of Attica that is often referred to as the Athens Basin or the Attica Basin (Greek: Λεκανοπέδιο Αθηνών/Αττικής). The basin is bounded by four large mountains: Mount Aigaleo to the west, Mount Parnitha to the north, Mount Pentelicus to the northeast and Mount Hymettus to the east.[36] Beyond Mount Aegaleo lies the Thriasian plain, which forms an extension of the central plain to the west. The Saronic Gulf lies to the southwest. Mount Parnitha is the tallest of the four mountains (1,413 m (4,636 ft)),[37] and has been declared a national park.

Athens is built around a number of hills. Lycabettus is one of the tallest hills of the city proper and provides a view of the entire Attica Basin. The meteorology of Athens is deemed to be one of the most complex in the world because its mountains cause a temperature inversion phenomenon which, along with the Greek Government's difficulties controlling industrial pollution, was responsible for the air pollution problems the city has faced.[32] This issue is not unique to Athens; for instance, Los Angeles and Mexico City also suffer from similar atmospheric inversion problems.[32]

The Cephissus river, the Ilisos and the Eridanos stream are the historical rivers of Athens.

Environment

The Lycabettus Hill from the Pedion tou Areos park.

By the late 1970s, the pollution of Athens had become so destructive that according to the then Greek Minister of Culture, Constantine Trypanis, "...the carved details on the five the caryatids of the Erechtheum had seriously degenerated, while the face of the horseman on the Parthenon's west side was all but obliterated."[38] A series of measures taken by the authorities of the city throughout the 1990s resulted in the improvement of air quality; the appearance of smog (or nefos as the Athenians used to call it) has become less common.

Measures taken by the Greek authorities throughout the 1990s have improved the quality of air over the Attica Basin. Nevertheless, air pollution still remains an issue for Athens, particularly during the hottest summer days. In late June 2007,[39] the Attica region experienced a number of brush fires,[39] including a blaze that burned a significant portion of a large forested national park in Mount Parnitha,[40] considered critical to maintaining a better air quality in Athens all year round.[39] Damage to the park has led to worries over a stalling in the improvement of air quality in the city.[39]

The major waste management efforts undertaken in the last decade (particularly the plant built on the small island of Psytalia) have greatly improved water quality in the Saronic Gulf, and the coastal waters of Athens are now accessible again to swimmers. In January 2007, Athens faced a waste management problem when its landfill near Ano Liosia, an Athenian suburb, reached capacity.[41] The crisis eased by mid-January when authorities began taking the garbage to a temporary landfill.[41]

Safety

Athens ranks in the lowest percentage for the risk on frequency and severity of terrorist attacks according to the EU Global Terrorism Database (EIU 2007–2016 calculations). The city also ranked 35th in Digital Security, 21st on Health Security, 29th on Infrastructure Security and 41st on Personal Security globally in a 2017 The Economist Intelligence Unit report.[42] It also ranks as a very safe city (39th globally out of 162 cities overall) on the ranking of the safest and most dangerous countries.[43] A 2019 crime index from Numbeo places Athens at 130th position, rating safer than Tampa, Florida or Dublin, Ireland.[44] According to a Mercer 2019 Quality of Living Survey, Athens ranks 89th on the Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranking.[45]

Climate

Athens has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification: Csa). The dominant feature of Athens' climate is alternation between prolonged hot and dry summers and mild winters with moderate rainfall.[46] With an average of 451 millimetres (17.8 in) of yearly precipitation, rainfall occurs largely between the months of October and April. July and August are the driest months when thunderstorms occur sparsely. Furthermore, some coastal areas of Athens, known as the Athens Riviera have a hot semi-arid climate (BSh) according to the climate atlas published by the Hellenic National Meteorological Service (H.N.M.S).[47]

Owing to the rain shadow of the Pindus Mountains, annual precipitation of Athens is lower than most other parts of Greece, especially western Greece. As an example, Ioannina receives around 1,300 mm (51 in) per year, and Agrinio around 800 mm (31 in) per year. Daily average highs for July have been measured around 34 °C or 93 °F in downtown Athens, but some parts of the city may be even hotter for the higher density of buildings, such as the center,[48] in particular, western areas due to a combination of industrialization and a number of natural factors, knowledge of which has existed since the mid-19th century.[49][50][51] Dut to the large area covered by Athens Metropolitan Area, there are notable climatic differences between parts of the urban conglomeration. The northern suburbs tend to be wetter and cooler in winter, whereas the southern suburbs are some of the driest locations in Greece and record very high minimum temperatures in summer.

Athens is affected by the urban heat island effect in some areas which is caused by human activity,[52][53] altering its temperatures compared to the surrounding rural areas,[54][55][56][57] and leaving detrimental effects on energy usage, expenditure for cooling,[58][59] and health.[53] The urban heat island of the city has also been found to be partially responsible for alterations of the climatological temperature time-series of specific Athens meteorological stations, because of its impact on the temperatures and the temperature trends recorded by some meteorological stations.[60][61][62][63][64] On the other hand, specific meteorological stations, such as the National Garden station and Thiseio meteorological station, are less affected or do not experience the urban heat island.[54][65]

Athens holds the World Meteorological Organization record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe, at 48 °C (118.4 °F), which was recorded in the Elefsina and Tatoi suburbs of Athens on 10 July 1977.[66]

Climate data for Elliniko, Athens (1955–2010), Extremes (1961–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 22.4
(72.3)
24.2
(75.6)
27.0
(80.6)
30.9
(87.6)
35.6
(96.1)
40.0
(104.0)
42.0
(107.6)
41.8
(107.2)
37.2
(99.0)
35.2
(95.4)
27.2
(81.0)
22.9
(73.2)
42.0
(107.6)
Average high °C (°F) 13.6
(56.5)
14.1
(57.4)
15.9
(60.6)
19.6
(67.3)
24.4
(75.9)
29.2
(84.6)
32.2
(90.0)
32.2
(90.0)
28.3
(82.9)
23.4
(74.1)
18.8
(65.8)
15.1
(59.2)
22.2
(72.0)
Daily mean °C (°F) 10.3
(50.5)
10.6
(51.1)
12.4
(54.3)
16.1
(61.0)
20.9
(69.6)
25.6
(78.1)
28.3
(82.9)
28.2
(82.8)
24.3
(75.7)
19.6
(67.3)
15.4
(59.7)
11.9
(53.4)
18.6
(65.5)
Average low °C (°F) 7.0
(44.6)
7.1
(44.8)
8.5
(47.3)
11.5
(52.7)
15.8
(60.4)
20.3
(68.5)
23.0
(73.4)
23.1
(73.6)
19.6
(67.3)
15.7
(60.3)
12.0
(53.6)
8.8
(47.8)
14.4
(57.9)
Record low °C (°F) −2.9
(26.8)
−4.2
(24.4)
−2.0
(28.4)
0.6
(33.1)
8.0
(46.4)
11.4
(52.5)
15.5
(59.9)
12.4
(54.3)
10.4
(50.7)
3.0
(37.4)
1.4
(34.5)
−1.8
(28.8)
−4.2
(24.4)
Average rainfall mm (inches) 47.7
(1.88)
38.5
(1.52)
42.3
(1.67)
25.5
(1.00)
14.3
(0.56)
5.4
(0.21)
6.3
(0.25)
6.2
(0.24)
12.3
(0.48)
45.9
(1.81)
60.1
(2.37)
62.0
(2.44)
366.5
(14.43)
Average rainy days 12.9 11.4 11.3 9.3 6.4 3.6 1.7 1.6 4.7 8.6 10.9 13.5 95.9
Average relative humidity (%) 69.3 68.0 65.9 62.2 58.2 51.8 46.6 46.8 54.0 62.6 69.2 70.4 60.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours 130.2 134.4 182.9 231.0 291.4 336.0 362.7 341.0 276.0 207.7 153.0 127.1 2,773.4
Source 1: HNMS (1955–2010 normals)[67]
Source 2: Deutscher Wetterdienst (Extremes 1961–1990),[68] Info Climat (Extremes 1991–present)[69][70]

Locations

Neighbourhoods of the Center of Athens (Municipality of Athens)

The Municipality of Athens, the City Centre of the Athens Urban Area, is divided into several districts: Omonoia, Syntagma, Exarcheia, Agios Nikolaos, Neapolis, Lykavittos, Lofos Strefi, Lofos Finopoulou, Lofos Filopappou, Pedion Areos, Metaxourgeio, Aghios Kostantinos, Larissa Station, Kerameikos, Psiri, Monastiraki, Gazi, Thission, Kapnikarea, Aghia Irini, Aerides, Anafiotika, Plaka, Acropolis, Pnyka, Makrygianni, Lofos Ardittou, Zappeion, Aghios Spyridon, Pangrati, Kolonaki, Dexameni, Evaggelismos, Gouva, Aghios Ioannis, Neos Kosmos, Koukaki, Kynosargous, Fix, Ano Petralona, Kato Petralona, Rouf, Votanikos, Profitis Daniil, Akadimia Platonos, Kolonos, Kolokynthou, Attikis Square, Lofos Skouze, Sepolia, Kypseli, Aghios Meletios, Nea Kypseli, Gyzi, Polygono, Ampelokipoi, Panormou-Gerokomeio, Pentagono, Ellinorosson, Nea Filothei, Ano Kypseli, Tourkovounia-Lofos Patatsou, Lofos Elikonos, Koliatsou, Thymarakia, Kato Patisia, Treis Gefyres, Aghios Eleftherios, Ano Patisia, Kypriadou, Menidi, Prompona, Aghios Panteleimonas, Pangrati, Goudi, Vyronas and Ilisia.

  • Omonoia, Omonoia Square, (Greek: Πλατεία Ομονοίας) is the oldest square in Athens. It is surrounded by hotels and fast food outlets, and contains a metro station, named Omonia station. The square is the focus for celebration of sporting victories, as seen after the country's winning of the Euro 2004 and the EuroBasket 2005 tournaments.
    Aiolou Street in the centre. On the left is the building of the National Bank of Greece.
  • Metaxourgeio (Greek: Μεταξουργείο) is a neighborhood of Athens. The neighborhood is located north of the historical centre of Athens, between Kolonos to the east and Kerameikos to the west, and north of Gazi. Metaxourgeio is frequently described as a transition neighborhood. After a long period of abandonment in the late 20th century, the area is acquiring a reputation as an artistic and fashionable neighborhood following the opening of art galleries, museums, restaurants and cafés. [1] Local efforts to beautify and invigorate the neighborhood have reinforced a sense of community and artistic expression. Anonymous art pieces containing quotes and statements in both English and Ancient Greek have sprung up throughout the neighborhood, bearing statements such as "Art for art's sake" (Τέχνη τέχνης χάριν). Guerrilla gardening has also helped to beautify the area.
    Apartment buildings near Kolonaki Square.
  • Psiri – The reviving Psiri (Greek: Ψυρρή) neighbourhood – also known as Athens's "meat packing district" – is dotted with renovated former mansions, artists' spaces, and small gallery areas. A number of its renovated buildings also host fashionable bars, making it a hotspot for the city in the last decade, while live music restaurants known as "rebetadika", after rebetiko, a unique form of music that blossomed in Syros and Athens from the 1920s until the 1960s, are to be found. Rebetiko is admired by many, and as a result rebetadika are often crammed with people of all ages who will sing, dance and drink till dawn.
  • The Gazi (Greek: Γκάζι) area, one of the latest in full redevelopment, is located around a historic gas factory, now converted into the Technopolis cultural multiplex, and also includes artists' areas, small clubs, bars and restaurants, as well as Athens's "Gay village". The metro's expansion to the western suburbs of the city has brought easier access to the area since spring 2007, as the blue line now stops at Gazi (Kerameikos station).
  • Syntagma, Syntagma Square, (Greek: Σύνταγμα/Constitution Square), is the capital's central and largest square, lying adjacent to the Greek Parliament (the former Royal Palace) and the city's most notable hotels. Ermou Street, an approximately {convert|1|km|mi|spell=in|abbr=off|adj=mid|-long|frac=8}} pedestrian road connecting Syntagma Square to Monastiraki, is a consumer paradise for both Athenians and tourists. Complete with fashion shops and shopping centres promoting most international brands, it now finds itself in the top five most expensive shopping streets in Europe, and the tenth most expensive retail street in the world.[73] Nearby, the renovated Army Fund building in Panepistimiou Street includes the "Attica" department store and several upmarket designer stores.
    Neoclassical houses in the historical neighbourhood of Plaka.
  • Plaka, Monastiraki, and ThissionPlaka (Greek: Πλάκα), lying just beneath the Acropolis, is famous for its plentiful neoclassical architecture, making up one of the most scenic districts of the city. It remains a prime tourist destination with tavernas, live performances and street salesmen. Nearby Monastiraki (Greek: Μοναστηράκι), for its part, is known for its string of small shops and markets, as well as its crowded flea market and tavernas specialising in souvlaki. Another district known for its student-crammed, stylish cafés is Theseum or Thission (Greek: Θησείο), lying just west of Monastiraki. Thission is home to the ancient Temple of Hephaestus, standing atop a small hill. This area also has a picturesque 11th-century Byzantine church, as well as a 15th-century Ottoman mosque.
  • Exarcheia (Greek: Εξάρχεια), located north of Kolonaki, often regarded as the city's anarchist scene and as a student quarter with cafés, bars and bookshops. Exarcheia is home to the Athens Polytechnic and the National Archaeological Museum; it also contains important buildings of several 20th-century styles: Neoclassicism, Art Deco and Early Modernism (including Bauhaus influences).
  • Kolonaki (Greek: Κολωνάκι) is the area at the base of Lycabettus hill, full of boutiques catering to well-heeled customers by day, and bars and more fashionable restaurants by night, with galleries and museums. This is often regarded as one of the more prestigious areas of the capital.

Parks and zoos

The entrance of the National Gardens, commissioned by Queen Amalia in 1838 and completed by 1840

Parnitha National Park is punctuated by well-marked paths, gorges, springs, torrents and caves dotting the protected area. Hiking and mountain-biking in all four mountains are popular outdoor activities for residents of the city. The National Garden of Athens was completed in 1840 and is a green refuge of 15.5 hectares in the centre of the Greek capital. It is to be found between the Parliament and Zappeion buildings, the latter of which maintains its own garden of seven hectares.

Parts of the City Centre have been redeveloped under a masterplan called the Unification of Archeological Sites of Athens, which has also gathered funding from the EU to help enhance the project.[74][75] The landmark Dionysiou Areopagitou Street has been pedestrianised, forming a scenic route. The route starts from the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Vasilissis Olgas Avenue, continues under the southern slopes of the Acropolis near Plaka, and finishes just beyond the Temple of Hephaestus in Thiseio. The route in its entirety provides visitors with views of the Parthenon and the Agora (the meeting point of ancient Athenians), away from the busy City Centre.

The hills of Athens also provide green space. Lycabettus, Philopappos hill and the area around it, including Pnyx and Ardettos hill, are planted with pines and other trees, with the character of a small forest rather than typical metropolitan parkland. Also to be found is the Pedion tou Areos (Field of Mars) of 27.7 hectares, near the National Archaeological Museum.

Athens' largest zoo is the Attica Zoological Park, a 20-hectare (49-acre) private zoo located in the suburb of Spata. The zoo is home to around 2000 animals representing 400 species, and is open 365 days a year. Smaller zoos exist within public gardens or parks, such as the zoo within the National Garden of Athens.

Urban and suburban municipalities

View of Vila Atlantis, in Kifissia, designed by Ernst Ziller.
Beach in the southern suburb of Alimos, one of the many beaches in the southern coast of Athens

The Athens Metropolitan Area consists of 58[17] densely populated municipalities, sprawling around the Municipality of Athens (the City Centre) in virtually all directions. For the Athenians, all the urban municipalities surrounding the City Centre are called suburbs. According to their geographic location in relation to the City of Athens, the suburbs are divided into four zones; the northern suburbs (including Agios Stefanos, Dionysos, Ekali, Nea Erythraia, Kifissia, Kryoneri, Maroussi, Pefki, Lykovrysi, Metamorfosi, Nea Ionia, Nea Filadelfeia, Irakleio, Vrilissia, Melissia, Penteli, Chalandri, Agia Paraskevi, Gerakas, Pallini, Galatsi, Psychiko and Filothei); the southern suburbs (including Alimos, Nea Smyrni, Moschato, Tavros, Agios Ioannis Rentis, Kallithea, Piraeus, Agios Dimitrios, Palaio Faliro, Elliniko, Glyfada, Lagonisi, Saronida, Argyroupoli, Ilioupoli, Varkiza, Voula, Vari and Vouliagmeni); the eastern suburbs (including Zografou, Dafni, Vyronas, Kaisariani, Cholargos and Papagou); and the western suburbs (including Peristeri, Ilion, Egaleo, Koridallos, Agia Varvara, Keratsini, Perama, Nikaia, Drapetsona, Chaidari, Petroupoli, Agioi Anargyroi, Ano Liosia, Aspropyrgos, Eleusina, Acharnes and Kamatero).

The Athens city coastline, extending from the major commercial port of Piraeus to the southernmost suburb of Varkiza for some 25 km (20 mi),[76] is also connected to the City Centre by tram.

In the northern suburb of Maroussi, the upgraded main Olympic Complex (known by its Greek acronym OAKA) dominates the skyline. The area has been redeveloped according to a design by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, with steel arches, landscaped gardens, fountains, futuristic glass, and a landmark new blue glass roof which was added to the main stadium. A second Olympic complex, next to the sea at the beach of Palaio Faliro, also features modern stadia, shops and an elevated esplanade. Work is underway to transform the grounds of the old Athens Airport – named Elliniko – in the southern suburbs, into one of the largest landscaped parks in Europe, to be named the Hellenikon Metropolitan Park.[77]

Many of the southern suburbs (such as Alimos, Palaio Faliro, Elliniko, Glyfada, Voula, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza) known as the Athens Riviera, host a number of sandy beaches, most of which are operated by the Greek National Tourism Organisation and require an entrance fee. Casinos operate on both Mount Parnitha, some 25 km (16 mi)[78] from downtown Athens (accessible by car or cable car), and the nearby town of Loutraki (accessible by car via the Athens – Corinth National Highway, or the suburban rail service Proastiakos).

Coastline of Palaio Faliro

Athens Geography articles: 167